The mission to catch everyone up on what I did in February continues as March quickly comes to an end. Luckily, there hasn’t been a lot going on this month so I have time to fill these days with experiences from March. Today I would like to talk about some things that I saw on two different occasions while walking around by myself. One of my favourite activities in Japan is to actually walk around new places; more than shopping or trying to find all of the big tourist sights, I really love to do this. By just walking and seeing where you end up (with some guidance from Google Maps) you can find all sorts of interesting things that you would normally not being able to see. I think that it helps me have a better understanding of what it is like to live in Japan as a Japanese person as well as helping me better understand the character of my surroundings. Therefore, while I don’t do it often enough I am planning some more walking adventures soon! I have many places that I want to experience and see so I can’t wait to go on more of these walking types of adventures around Saitama and Tokyo!
In February, I had two cases where I walked around areas quite a bit with the first one being on February 12th! Actually, this adventure started out with me trying to get to a hospital in Kawagoe to get my nose and hearing checked. Between my lack of thought and a very inaccurate printed map, I thought that I could walk to this hospital from Kawagoe Station. Well, the reality is that this hospital is EXTREMELY far from the station in the middle rice fields (see the picture) and I missed the open reception time by ten minutes – understand that Kawagoe is a city…so I was surprised and also kind of impressed. Though I later realized that there is a bus that very quickly and easily takes you to this hospital from the station, at the time I was incredibly annoyed which led me to decide that I was going to walk back to my dormitory from the hospital! A quick look on Google Maps told me that this place was terrible and that it would take well over an hour but I thought that it would be fun to see more of Japan’s “natural” environment by which I mean areas that are not made for tourism. So I started to walk!
What I quickly found after walking for quite some time was a small town kind of area that I believe is also technically Kawagoe. While there I found a tiny shrine with foxes next to a slide and a swing. It was very strange to see and not a full shrine at all. I am not sure how to explain it but I guess it was like the offering part of the shrine was the only part that was there. I found these later on in my journey as well. However, my journey quickly shifted from getting home when I consulted the map once again and realized that I could walk into Saitama City and then go home! I went to Saitama City in December for my SPYAIR concert but I never really got to look around the city and naturally the part of the city next to the dome is a little different than the rest of the city. So I stopped to get some lunch at the convenience store and changed directions to go towards Saitama City!
A major thing that I have come to realize about Japanese cities that are not core areas in Tokyo (because Tokyo is really like several cities in one) is that for the most part they look fairly old. I also find that smaller cities have more in common with the cities that I have been to in Canada when you are in a downtown because they are not just a sprawling mess like Tokyo. These areas are not made pretty for outsiders to see or anything so they tend to be more rundown but I kind of think that it is beautiful. From where I had decided to go to Saitama City, it took me I think two hours to get into the city. A lot of that time was walking down winding town-like streets and then a very long trek across a scary highway bridge – I am confident that crossing the bridge and getting onto a normal street again was an hour of this journey. Once I got out of the bridge and highway nightmare I actually came across a really little old lady who stopped me while I was walking. She wanted to know what I was doing and where I was going. Even as early as this in the break I had already forgotten how to communicate even at a basic level in Japanese but she seemed very happy to do most of the talking away so I just told her that I was sightseeing. Then she told me about how I reminded her of herself when she was younger and just walking around – actually I only understood about 30-40% of what she was saying so I think this is what she was talking about but it ended wonderfully and she told me to be careful and went on her way! I think she should have been the one being careful; she was tiny and looked like she could break at any second! This journey from Kawagoe to the centre of Saitama City took about five hours of walking so unfortunately my phone battery died and I don’t have any pictures of what the heart of the city looks like but I think those kinds of things are easier to search online anyway! Because my phone died and I had not been prepared for five solid hours of walking I took the train home and went right to sleep!